The evolution of multi-channel communications

When you think about customer communication management what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? If you’re in the Customer Communication Management (CCM) industry it’s probably a bill, a statement, a coupon, or a legal notice.

CCM is a tool to talk at customers.

But for a marketer it is something very different. That’s because properly constructed marketing communications plans are meant to transcend the transactional and build relationships that convert or retain business.

Every Christmas I get a daytimer/calendar combo from my accountant. It’s a nice gesture in an age when we carry our lives in our smartphones, but I appreciate the effort. And he’s not going anywhere. It’s simple marketing and it communicates that he appreciates my business.

So what has me thinking about CCM? Well, next week I’ll be attending the Xploration 16 Conference in Orlando. It’s one of the biggest conferences of the year with a focus on customer communications. And it brings together thought leaders from the worlds of print, digital, mobile and social.

Considering  Xplor started in 1980 as an association of Xerox laser printer users, it’s certainly grown far beyond the world of transactional bills and the statement industry. Today it includes electronic documents and print.

I’m a panelist at the Multi-Channel session “I have content. Now what?” at 3PM on Wednesday April 6, along with Markus Kleiber, Kurt Konow, and Bill LaRoss, to discuss the distribution of content.

As new technologies continue to emerge, more channels open themselves up to marketers. But like the mariners of old, we are only just beginning to discover how far we can go with the distribution of information and content as it becomes more complex.

Some of the questions we’ll tackle include: What advantages do the different distribution channels have over one another? Will omni-channel communications necessitate support across all channels? How do multi-channel and omni-channel differ? We’ll discuss various distribution channels, what technologies and processes are relevant and which ones may have run their course.

Remember that daytimer/calendar I get from my accountant? At a very basic level it is a CCM tool aimed at retaining my business. But for most companies, a once-a-year visit to the post office is not going to cut it. Today the technology has reached a point where trigger events and high-level customization is becoming the standard for optimizing customer outreach.

Today we can set up smaller runs for billing reminders or even reminders to come back to an Ecommerce website — customized with offers based on past searches or purchasing history.

We’ve even figured out a way to trigger automated print marketing communications when a visitor abandons a shopping cart! And as I’ve pointed out many times before — print sells.

Today software and hardware vendors in this space are only just starting to realise the potential for this multi-channel approach that uses digital to trigger print. But it’s going to explode in the next few years. CCM already includes SMS and email — and now it includes personalized print communications.